NOTE: Today’s guest blog deals with sexual assault and its repercussions. While we pray it is edifying, the material may be upsetting to some readers.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault or other violence, please seek help. The Victim Connect Resource Center lists many hotlines that are situation-specific (children, military, women, teens, rape, domestic violence, trafficking, etc).
I was sexually assaulted for the first time at the age of eight. When I told my mom what happened, her response to me was, “Nothing happened. There is nothing to talk about. We do not need to bring this up again.” This response by my mom caused extremely deep scarring and a massive misunderstanding in my mind. This story is not intended to belittle my mom. My heart’s plea is that we learn from her response and what could have been done differently.
Brothers and sisters, if someone comes to you and shares with you that they have been assaulted or touched without consent or anything like that, please listen. I plead on behalf of all victims, please listen.
I was a senior in high school. It was a very large public school with about 500 students in each grade level. Drug raids to check lockers was the norm. There were two extreme social classes in the same school. I was from the “poor” side of town; literally I lived in a different zip code from the “rich” kids. There was a bus sent to pick up about 30 of us from the poor side of town to attend this high school. For most of us, it felt like being sent to a pack of wolves every day. We were poor, we knew we were poor and had accepted that. To be placed in a school with peers who were driving Mercedes at the age of 16 and going on international vacations regularly, was difficult for some. I chose a different approach than to try to fit in at the high school. I created an entirely different social circle.
My boyfriend and all of my friends were from other schools or people I worked with. My boyfriend would drive me to school so I could avoid taking the bus. During my senior year, I was only in school for the morning so I could go to work in the afternoons. I was not around my high school peers very much at all. I found most of them to be utterly clueless about life and self-centered. They did not understand how it felt to go hungry or not have heat in your house. Their biggest concerns were whether they would spend their time off in London or France.
Like most high schools, there was a group of athletes that traveled in a pack through the halls. For my high school, this group contained the football, baseball and basketball teams. One day, I was running a little late to class and I found myself running up the stairs in front of this group of athletes. One of them, a football player, his real name is Anthony, sexually assaulted me. Right there on the stairs. I cannot tell you what other friends of his were around or what time of day it was or what happened afterwards. As humans, I think our brains tend to block out trauma to protect us. I remember his full name, his face as he laughed at me and I remember resisting.
I grew up on government assistance. My mom had been a single mom for two decades and was doing the best she could. I started working when I was 13 so I could have clothes and shoes to go to school. I worked at a retail clothing store and had a large employee discount. Due to this benefit, I was dressed in the latest fashion. We had no dress code in our high school, and everyone just wore whatever they wanted as long as “what mattered” was covered. That day, I was in a short skirt, which was the trend at the time. I had to learn that the way I dressed that day did not result in me “deserving” to be assaulted. There are people who believe when victims dress a certain way, they are asking to be sexually assaulted. Of course, this is a ridiculous line of thinking. But one that I had to overcome in my own mind.
After the assault on the stairs happened, I recalled what my mom told me as an 8-year-old girl after that sexual assault on the subway: “Nothing happened. There is nothing to talk about. We do not need to bring this up again.” I obeyed my mom. I told no one. I did not even tell my boyfriend, who I know for a fact would have wiped the parking lot up with Anthony. Assuming Anthony even survived an encounter with my boyfriend. Once again, I bottled up the pain and the hurt and the self-blame. I had a twisted mindset of what was appropriate and inappropriate. I began to make very poor choices when it came to the opposite sex. I continued to bottle things up and push the pain down until it about killed me. All because a person I went to for help did not listen to me. I regret not trying someone else. I regret not telling my grandma, a teacher, a friend, anyone. I just did what I was told to do, “We do not need to bring this up again.”
Brothers and sisters, I say again, if someone comes to you and shares with you that they have been assaulted or touched without consent or anything like that, please listen. I plead on behalf of all victims, please listen.
Brothers and sisters, if you are a victim of any kind of abuse – know this: It is NOT your fault. You did NOTHING to invite it, you do NOT deserve it and God does NOT want you treated that way. He died for you and goes before you and after you. He places His hand of blessing on your head (Psalm 139:5). David goes on in verses 17 and 18 to say, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” You are God’s beloved. “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). God will deal with the ones who hurt you. You may not see the Lord take revenge, but He will avenge what was done to you in His time and in His way. “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
Father God, we lift up Esther and all survivors of sexual assault for full and complete healing in Your loving arms. Please shower them with peace, love, and the eternal warmth of Your light. May the perpetrators fall into Your hands and learn Your justice. In the blessed name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
If you are in need of personal prayer, please contact Wounded Butterflies. Thank you, Esther, for continuing bravely to share your story.